If the FA gets its way and the maximum number of overseas players in Premier League squads must be reduced from 17 to 13, some clubs have work to do. Huw Davies analyses…
In effect, Premier League clubs would have two years to prepare for such a scenario. January 2021 is seemingly the soonest any post-Brexit change can be implemented (assuming we haven’t all died of tedium by then), so with long-term contracts to manage, the process of building a squad with more homegrown players could begin in earnest.
Let’s say that process does start now. Over the next few transfer windows, what could the Premier League’s Big Six do to prepare themselves? Well…
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Keep: Ederson, Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sané, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero
Sell: Claudio Bravo, Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala, Philippe Sandler, Danilo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ilkay Gundogan
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Pep Guardiola’s squad needs future-proofing in midfield more than anything else. His search this year for an eventual Fernandinho replacement bore no fruit, and the Brazilian has such a vital role in freeing up David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne – allowing Manchester City to play what is in essence a 4-1-4-1 – that he can’t be the only real option there next season, when he’ll be 34.
Unfortunately there don’t appear to be many homegrown alternatives at the level required, so City – who would have to lose half a dozen overseas players in this post-Brexit scenario – would surely have to look abroad. Adrien Rabiot, 10 years’ Fernandinho’s junior (and once a player in City’s academy), has been linked and could be a sound investment, especially with his PSG contract about to expire.
But who leaves to make room, without removing City’s depth? Vincent Kompany’s status as a club legend doesn’t stop him from being their fourth-best centre-back at a time when Cameron Humphreys-Grant and Tosin Adarabioyo are showing promise, while solid squad members such as Ilkay Gundogan and Danilo would be at risk if Guardiola was prepared to show faith in English youth, such as Lewis Cook, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and City’s own Phil Foden.
Yuri Berchiche, left-back for Athletic, is more experienced but an unexpected homegrown option.
Goalkeepers: Butland, Ederson, Muric
Centre-backs: Adarabioyo, Humphreys-Grant, Laporte, Otamendi, Stones
Full-backs: Berchiche, Mendy, Walker, Wan-Bissaka
Midfielders: Cook, De Bruyne, Delph, Fernandinho, Foden, Rabiot, B Silva, D Silva
Forwards: Aguero, Jesus, Mahrez, Sané, Sterling
Keep: David de Gea, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial
Sell: Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Alexis Sanchez
Buy: Kalidou Koulibaly*, Djibril Sidibe*, Kieran Tierney*, James Maddison, Hirving Lozano*
Where to start with a squad that juxtaposes underperforming stars with limited but reliable old warhorses? Anyone could leave, especially as Jose Mourinho has fallen out with almost all of them at some point.
Assuming Mourinho isn’t their manager in 2021, Manchester United can afford to lose Marouane Fellaini. Conversely, their recent banishment doesn’t make Eric Bailly (24) or Fred (25) bad footballers for evermore. Besides, the priority is selling Chris Smalling to Everton – it’s going to happen eventually – and replacing 33-year-olds Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia with players who aren’t Matteo Darmian or Marcos Rojo.
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Alex Sandro is a target but an intriguing long-term option to compete with Luke Shaw could be 21-year-old Kieran Tierney, although he too is not considered homegrown. The Celtic left-back is a real prospect who can also operate in central defence, and his lower price would leave United with the funds to buy Djibril Sidibe on the other side, while landing the elite centre-back they need: Napoli’s justifiably pricey Kalidou Koulibaly.
Ed Woodward will spend big as long as there’s resale value, which is where he clashes with Perisic-loving, Godin-chasing Mourinho. Going all in on 22-year-old James Maddison, therefore, could be a way to reinvigorate United’s attack, as he’s ready yet offers exciting potential, while Hirving Lozano (23) is performing consistently well for PSV and Mexico.
But while United’s squad does require upheaval, being restricted to 13 overseas players wouldn’t pose a problem. Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba unexpectedly qualify as homegrown, although Diogo Dalot (an under-21 right now) won’t from the 2020/21 season onwards. Although Sergio Romero is a reliable reserve goalkeeper, the domestically-trained pair of Joel Castro Pereira and Dean Henderson – currently out on loan – should soon be competing for second place. Lee Grant can do a Stuart Taylor in his dotage.